We can’t live with the mess, say residents

Vagrants have set up near the West Coast Village Shopping Mall and residents want them gone.

Table View residents want vagrants in the community to be moved on.

This comes after community clean-up crews in the area highlighted the vagrant issue along the R27, especially near the West Coast Village shopping mall and near the Blaauwberg Hospital. Vagrants have set up little communities along the bushy areas between the road and the mall.

Wendy Robertson, a Table View resident and a member of the community police forum (CPF) who is involved in community clean-ups, said the majority of the people living on the streets in Table View are not necessarily homeless.

“I say this factually because I am part of the community clean-ups that go out every second week along with DPU (the City of Cape Town’s Displaced Persons Unit) and Law Enforcement. Over the past 10 years, we’ve engaged with around 90% of the people living on our streets. We have people from Mitchell’s Plain, Malmesbury, Wellington and even Worcester. Most of them however, are from Atlantis. Most have homes and families to go back to. However, they are refusing any sort of assistance,“ she said.

Ms Robertson added that the reason they don’t want assistance especially in terms of shelters is because there are rules.

“The street people will make excuses such as, their things get stolen and they are not allowed to be with their spouses. I’ve visited a lot of these shelters and there are lock-up facilities for personal items and sections for couples. They don’t want rules and don’t want to participate in the substance abuse programmes,” she said.

On the R27, there are a number of people squatting along the bushy areas and reed beds. There are tents, sleeping bags and cardboard shelters with dozens of vagrants living there. Table View residents say this starts to create a mess.

Table View resident Tracy van Niekerk blames other residents for this. “Where do you think these residents get all these tents and sleeping bags? It is definitely from residents living here in our community. The more we give them, the more of them keep coming. I read somewhere of a study done by the City of Cape Town talking about 4 000 complaints about the homeless in the city between October and December last year. Nearly 2 000 of those were from area north. We have a really big problem here,” she said.

Martin Ewer, another Table View resident, said it didn’t matter whether residents were giving vagrants food and clothes or not. He said the City and relevant authorities were to blame.

“This back and forth between residents blaming each other won’t get us anywhere. At the end of the day, it’s not our responsibility to deal with the homeless. That is the job of DPU, Law Enforcement and the City. They need to sort this out. Some of these street people could get very violent. They harass residents almost as if they are owed something,” he said.

Another resident said she was more concerned about diseases spreading. “These people stay on the streets, use the bathroom in the bush, don’t wash their hands, etc. Then they go to the same shops we go to and spread whatever potential diseases they might have. This is a major problem,” she said.

Greater Table View Action Forum chairwoman, Karen Davis, said it was unacceptable that residents and ratepayers have to exist with the filth.

“It’s also unacceptable to live with the lawlessness and unacceptable behaviour most of these homeless people perpetuate. Being poor does not have to mean you live in filth.

“In our area, our community clean-up crew go out every second week, with Solid Waste and Law Enforcement, to clean up after these people. There are rats the size of cats being lured by the rubbish they throw around,” she said.

Ms Robertson said the giving nature of the Table View community can’t be ignored because the street people in the neighbourhood stay there because they know they will make money.

“The people on our streets will not go to shelters because they know if they stay on the streets, they stand to make a lot of money. They also get goods for their camps like beds and other furniture. They are also sustained by the bin digging – this is one of the biggest means of street people getting their goods,” she said.

According to Ms Robertson and other residents, a lot of these goods the street people receive end up being thrown away or being sold on street corners or illegal trading spots at Sandown taxi rank and near Bayside Mall.

By the time this issue went to print, the City of Cape Town did not respond to questions about Law Enforcement, DPU and other City initiatives aimed specifically at the homeless in Table View.

Tabletalk will publish the City’s response when we receive it.